Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not that I've ever done this


...where can I get that app?

Can organizers

I've got this crazy-deep pantry, which is really great and all, except that stuff tends to get lost in the back.  (How long have those egg noodles been there?)  I have rows of cans like little lines of soldiers, but there's a lot of wasted airspace.  I want some of the fancypants first in/first out can rotators, but they tend to the "dang expensive."  As much as I'd like some,  the thought of spending fifty bucks on plastic shelving makes me die a little inside.

In comes the cardboard can organizer!  They come in four packs, at the reasonable price of four dollars per organizer for the pantry size (even less for the cupboard size).  Shipping's a little steep, but you get a 10% discount if you buy five or more packs.  That's twenty individual organizers, which is more than I really need...or probably would ever ever use.  I definitely need to get some, though.

So, if you've been looking for a pantry organizer, I think this might work.  And if you want to go in on a bulk order with me, that could be cool.

Carpet saves the day

I'm pretty sure that each floor of this building has a different color and/or style of carpet. I suppose it would be easy enough to check, but I am lazy.  Anyway, I am convinced that they do this on purpose.  We're so conditioned to just get off when the door opens, even if it's not our floor.  "The door opened.  This must be the floor I want," we think.  But with each floor having a different carpet color, you're warned that it isn't your floor.  The prints on the wall across from the elevators do this to a lesser extent, but the real savior is the carpet.  I can't tell you how many times I would have arrived at the wrong office if it weren't for the carpet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hogan's Heroes

My husband got the complete series of Hogan's Heroes for Christmas, so we've been watching quite a bit of it.  A few things nag at me:
  • Is Sgt. Schultz a traitor, or just lazy?  Or does he like the guys because they bribe him so he lets it slide?  What is the motivation for his "see no evil" attitude?
  • Were the prisoners specifically assembled because of their skill sets, or are they more of an ad hoc committee?  I like to think that they were planted to be a special stop on the Underground, like a secret Grand Central Station.
  • Wasn't it a little soon to turn WWII into a sitcom?  It was only twenty years after the war ended, and they're making Hitler jokes.  Would a Persian Gulf War sitcom really go over well now?
  • Am I thinking too much about this?  It's a goofy show.  A goofy show that ran for years longer than the U.S.'s involvement in the war it depicts, much like M*A*S*H.
Yeah, I'm thinking too much about this.

For post #250, more Dear So-and-So letters

Dear Fox "Green it. Mean it.", NBC The More You Know, etc.

I will not turn off the water when I'm brushing my teeth until the water is the temperature I want it.  I'm not brushing my teeth with ice water and that's just all there is to it.

Because Sensodyne only goes so far,
Cathie


Dear Martha Stewart,

I really appreciate your magazine.  You have some great ideas.  I particularly enjoy the ideas for decorating eggs in the April issue, and I still think I might do that wool felting technique on my throw pillows.

However, I think we have some fundamental differences in our values.  Quite frankly, I don't care how delicious the butter is, I'm just not paying six dollars a pound for it.  And a $13 plain chocolate bar had better have flecks of gold in it.

But hey, please keep up the good pecan pie recipes.

Because that's a good thing,
Cathie


Attn: man sitting next to us at the theatre
Re: You suck
From: Cathie

If something is so important that you need to receive several phone calls during a performance, perhaps you ought not be at the theatre.  Even if you you reduce the brightness on your phone, it is still distracting to those around you, not to mention INCREDIBLY DISRESPECTFUL to the people on stage.

You are a jerk.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ministry of Silly Walks

There are several people's writing I read that can be considered "professional bloggers."  Do you find it odd, as I do, that blogging can be a profession?  That being a clearinghouse for poorly-decorated cakes--or even better, random musings by no one particularly famous--can earn you a livelihood?

I profess to want that job, but you know what?  I don't.  I don't want to have to come up with content every day.  I don't want to have to write when I'm sick, or plan ahead for posts when I'm on vacation.  I don't want to have to do anything.  I blog because I have a thought in my head or a link that I like (for instance, this video/article on redecorating; it's nice to know we've got our sofas in the right spot).  Any time you make something your profession, it automatically loses some of its enjoyability, because now you're doing it because it's your job, not because you want to.

Of course, I'd love to make money off ads or have companies send me free products to review.  Who doesn't like free stuff?  It'd be great to have minions emailing me begging for my opinion or commenting on each post about how witty and clever and pretty I am.

But then again, minions bring hate mail, people telling you that you're wrong and ridiculous and shouldn't wear white sundresses because you look like Shamu at a wedding.  So I guess I'll stick with my freebie-less existence, with my seven loyal readers by my side.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to walk to the other building, because the vending machine downstairs is broken and I promised myself an ice cream--Shamu or no Shamu.

Certain as death.

...a soapbox rant.

According to TurboTax, which (whom?) I have no reason to doubt, my effective tax rate is just over seven percent.  This is quite reasonable.  And yet preparing my taxes is so, so irritating, reasonable tax rate notwithstanding.  Just having to keep track of all my charitable donation information, remembering work-related expenses, checking unreimbursed medical expenses against my AGI, etc., is frustrating; I can't imagine if I had stock sales or a home business or something.  I would rather pay a straight ten percent--no deductions, no credits, just a straight tithe.  I'm willing to pay more than I otherwise would have to (and next year our tax liability will be even less, thanks to FH going part time to go back to school) in exchange for a clear, understandable system of taxation.

Consider all the rich people that supposedly don't pay much in taxes because of loopholes or donations or whatever they're doing (and could someone please show me how?).  They'd still pay ten percent.  It's the perfect sliding scale: make more, pay more.  Make less, pay less.

It would be easy to make exceptions for the lower-income people, if the politicians insist.  Credit it back to them if they make less than whatever threshold amount you set.  Or just make the first however many dollars untaxed for everyone!

But what about all the accountants? people always ask.  Businesses still need accountants.  People still need financial planning advice.  It's not like they have no marketable skills besides preparing taxes.  And think of all the money we'd save on audits and enforcement and people staffing the IRS helplines, not to mention the estimated 1.8 billion hours small businesses spend trying to figure out and comply with the tax code every year.

The original income tax form was three pages and had one page of instructions.  (My favorite part is the deduction for losses sustained in a shipwreck.)  Now we have over 17,000 pages of tax code.  Seventeen thousand.  Clearly, there's something wrong there.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You are just like everyone else!

If you watched last week's episode of Community, "Beginner Pottery," (which I suggest you do because that show is funny like the Office used to be [and was, last week]) you would have gotten some of the greatest advice.

The main character, Jeff, takes a pottery class and is craptastic at it.  But there's another guy in the class who is really awesome, and it really irritates Jeff's narcissism.  Blah blah blah, decides to do his best, learning moment, whatever.  But at the end, he imagines the advice his mom should have given him as a kid.  She says,

Jeff, you're a normal person. There's nothing very special about you at all.  You're going to be great at a few things, but really crappy at many more.  And that takes a lot of the pressure off! So you can live a full, happy life.
I love that.  I think somewhere we decided that you can't enjoy something unless you're awesome at it.  And I understand, it's nice to be successful.  But you know what, I think half the reason I enjoyed my jazz dance class so much was because I wasn't good at it.  I had to work hard, and it made it that much more satisfying when I was able to master something, because I had to work for it.  My paintings aren't good, but I enjoy making them.  I will never star in a Broadway musical, but I love to sing (and the voice lessons really are helping).  In fact, I'm pretty crappy at a lot of the things I enjoy.  But I don't enjoy them any less.

So enjoy your mediocrity!  Embrace it!  Let it free you from the expectations of perfection, and go live a full, happy life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Just so you know...

Marriage is a money pit.  When you discover that your spouse needs foot surgery, four wisdom teeth removed, and possibly braces, don't say I didn't warn you.

This has been a public service announcement.


(In all fairness, we didn't have to pay anything for the foot surgery.  The subsequent recovery cost us quite a bit in missed work, though.)

Money is a gas

I guess more accurately, spending is a gas, because it expands to fill all available money.

I was looking at my bank transactions from last year, and I used to go shopping for home decor, clothes and shoes, kitchen gadgets, dinners out, you name it.  Now we stay home.  We eat out as little as possible.  I buy new clothes, but they're for FH.  It's very different, in a perfectly acceptable way.

But I have a list.  A list of things that we need--or, let's face it, more frequently want.  Do I really need to make a list of things to buy?  Probably not.  But I'm a list maker.  And now I can prioritize them and not worry about forgetting that I need shelves for the garage or whathaveyou.

It's funny that I'm so list-driven.  I'm really not that organized.  I tend to leave piles everywhere, particularly on the coffee table.  Which, incidentally, drives my husband crazy, particularly the piles on the coffee table.  "It's in the middle of the room!" he says.  "Well, where do you want me to put them?" I ask.  Anywhere else, apparently.  But it's not true, because my untidy nightstand is a source of grief, too!  This is why I wanted to pull the sofa away from the wall and put a screen behind it with my own little desk area that I can leave as untidy as I want without bothering him.  Ah well.  One day we'll move and I'll have my own office space that I can junk up as much as I want.

So what's on my list, you ask?  Well, a rosebush is at the top.  What's on yours?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Foood

I haven't really felt like cooking lately, thanks to funerals, vacations, tonsillitis and whatnot.  Everyone extols the virtue of slow cookers for non-cooking cooking, which I can totally understand.  Set it and forget it.  The problem with slow cooker recipes is that they'll say to cook for three hours, or five hours--or perhaps the most ridiculous, one and a half hours.  Um, okay, I'll just let it sit on "warm" for seven more hours? (That's right, my crockpot is so advanced, you can set a timer and it will switch to warm when it's done.)  Am I supposed to run home at lunch to do it? Because that totally negates the convenience.  Do I trust my husband to set it up before he leaves for work?  Throw the raw ingredients in there to sit for a few hours before the timer turns on?  Do I even have a delayed start for my crockpot?

And my crockpot is huge!  You're supposed to have it at least half full, but that is way more food than we would ever need.  Is there some way to trick it, like putting a brick in your toilet tank?

We've decided to eat healthier, so we've challenged ourselves not to eat out for the rest of the month.  Well, it was supposed to be until Tuesday, but it's just an extra day to finish out the month.  Then maybe we'll do a no high fructose corn syrup challenge (thanks for ruining all my favorite foods, Catherine!) or an "all your servings of fruits" challenge, or whatever.  FH is determined to lose the thirty or so pounds he's gained in the last year, and get ready for potentially doing the POST academy.

Of course, all these best laid plans are certain--certain, I tell you--to go awry next month.  The food they feed us during general conference is kind of dodgy, and the tonsils will definitely cause problems.  But hey, at least this week we're jazzed about cooking and eating healthy and stuff.  Go us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No pictures!

We were on vacation for a week, and I have no pictures.  There just doesn't seem to be a lot to take pictures of.  But I'll caption some imaginary pictures for you.

"Here we are, arriving at the airport for the third time, two and a half days after we were supposed to leave.  Sorry we're not smiling."

"This is us in the car, driving back from LA.  It took two hours."

"Here's the large cockroach that crawled off to destinations unknown in the bedroom.  And here's the setup on the couch where we slept the last two nights to avoid the MIA cockroach."

"These adorable yet annoying dogs caused this lovely rash on my chin."

"This is the pile of stuff my sister-in-law bought on our five-store 'I just need to go to Crate and Barrel' trip to the mall."

Honestly, it wasn't all bad.

"Here we are, sleeping in until 11 every day."

"These are the four dishes we used, mainly for eating cereal."

"This is me at Sea World.  Notice how I'm in a t-shirt and pants? The weather was perfect.  And look, there's practically no one there."

"Check it out--DirectTV with DVR!"

"This Altima is way nicer than my Altima.  And look at the sweet navigation system."

"Here's the view of the beach from the bench we ate lunch on."

"This is my sister, her husband, and their adorable baby."

"This is my sister-in-law on the phone with her mom, harassing the crap out of her about the welfare of those dang dogs."

And of course, my very favorite, "Here I am, not at work."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear So-and-So letters

Dear Penguin Classics,

I can understand making endnotes of the really not important "originally in the manuscript it said this" notes, but when it's super important "you probably don't speak French or know much about early 19th-century British theater" stuff, don't you think footnotes would be a lot more convenient?

Sincerely,
Keeping my finger in the back of the book



Dear Old Navy,
How did I wind up on the Old Navy Maternity mailing list?  I'm nauseated, and maybe a little pudgier than usual, but I'm not pregnant.

I remain
Just fat, thanks


Dear Wall Street Journal,
I know that technically one can use "inaugural" as a noun, but it looks weird. If you don't have room for "inauguration," you probably should recast the sentence.  I know I would have.

Very truly yours,
But I'm sure you know best


Dear genetics,
Why couldn't I get my dad's hair color genes?  It was fun coloring my hair when I was younger, but now that I've been doing it for half my life, it's getting old.  I mean, I'm glad I have a way to color the ridiculous amount of gray hair, but it would be so much easier if I just didn't have the gray hair.  Thanks for nothing.

Yours in Mendel,
The one with all the gray roots

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things that drive me crazy

People who spell "voilĂ " as "walaa" or any variation thereof.  (My FH spells "touchĂ©" as "2 shay" just to get on my nerves, the dear man.)

When I don't have the time, I feel the need to be productive and clean and organize.  When I do have the time, I feel the need to sleep in until 11, eat toast, watch a couple episodes of Bones, and maybe take a shower.

Not having time for breakfast.  The funny thing is that I used to not be able to eat breakfast at all, and now I'm disappointed if I don't have time for a bowl of cereal.

Forgetting my phone at home, even though FH is the only one who calls me during the day.

Having to take lunch early.  It makes the afternoon seem loooong.

Seeing my husband dead asleep when I leave for work every morning.  It's just not fair!

The national debt.  It seems weird to include in a list of otherwise trivial annoyances, but it bothers me that I'm expected to economize and live within my means, but the government doesn't have to.

Raisins.  Next time, Planters, skip the humiliated grapes.  Maybe spring for some Craisins?  Or maybe more nuts?  Kudos, though, on the level of generic M&Ms.

Being poor.  FH has been off work for six weeks now, and I'm tired of having no money.  I'm also tired of having to be the money "bad cop" and say no to everything.  I should have said no to the trip to California, but with airfare, housing, and car taken care of, it was hard to say no.  We couldn't do this trip for less.

Babies.  In a good way, of course.  I like them.  I kind of want one.  But not right now.  (See "being poor.")  Fortunately, my neighbor is due in August, so I'mma steal her baby regularly.  It's perfect for everyone--she'll have the peace to nap or shower or whatever pesky thing the baby is interfering with--and I get to play with a baby for a while then give her back to mom and sleep soundly through the night.  It's the perfect plan.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh, Utah.

Now, I know I just said that staying in Utah is the best idea right now--and it is--but sometimes I just shake my head and thank my lucky stars that I am not here permanently.

There's been a big hubub about a budget shortfall at one of the school districts.  The recession, they just split the district, the state might be cutting public school funding...I get it.  Things are rough all over.

But what's their idea of a solution?  Cutting hundreds jobs.  Five hundred jobs, half of them teachers.  Class sizes will go up (and they're not exactly small to begin with).  High school teachers will have to give up their prep hour to teach an additional class.  Programs will be cut.  Why? Because they don't want to raise property taxes, even though polls show that most people are in favor.

I don't live in that school district, and I don't have kids, but I'd still be willing to pay.  It works out to approximately ten bucks a month for a $200,000 house.  (My house isn't even worth that much, and I'd still pay the full ten.) I think foregoing one trip to Wendy's each month is worth preserving what little quality the public education has here.  As it is Utah tends to be bottom on per-student spending.  I don't love taxes, but THIS is why we pay them!  Education, libraries, roads!  Shortchanging kids today just makes for stupid adults tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why I like my job/why we're staying

Short answer: my boss/school.

See, nearly every job I've ever quit was because of the boss.  Sometimes it was moving or hours or whatever, but I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a good boss.

I don't actually love my job.  I feel a little under-utilized, especially when there is a position in the department that's perfect for me.  (There are some politic issues about why the person who has it now got it, even though I am far more qualified.  Sigh.)  I'm frequently bored.  But at the same time, they don't expect me to find things to do when I have no other tasks.  It's perfectly okay if I read a book.  I don't know when I'd find the time to pay bills, sort out the problems with the insurance company (really, guys? You say there's no claim on that date in my file, and yet you've sent two denial letters?) do my Christmas shopping, plan vacations, create my wedding announcement...blog...it's really quite astounding what I get done at work.

What really makes work great, though, is my boss.  I told him today, "I have good news for you.  It looks like we're going to be in Utah at least two more years."  He gave me a high five and said, "That is good news for me.  But I want you to be happy!  You're like one of my kids!"  I assured him that it had been my idea, because if we were to try to move to Arizona now, we'd lose at least a year and a half before FH can go to school (because out of state tuition is just out of the question) and I really want to get him some education.  I got another high five.

So instead of moving to Arizona right away, FH's going to go back to work part time and go to school in the mornings.  It works out really well, because they've been needing someone part time in the vault but couldn't hire anyone new, he wanted to get off the trucks, he's already a Utah resident, summer school starts in the middle of May, they have the program he wants to do, Weber State has a co-op arrangement that you can actually finish your bachelor's on the SLCC campus, I make more an hour than he does and have better insurance benefits, I actually like my work situation, Not-My-Boss (aka Pompous Old Windbag) is retiring in 59 business days, we already have somewhere to live, I doubt we could sell the house now anyway, we won't have to pay back the first time homebuyer tax credit, this winter has been so mild that I haven't even minded it too much (must buy leg warmers, though), we can still visit family and they can visit us.  It's just a much more practical to stay.

I think it's a good plan.  FH seems excited.  He asked me today, "If we're staying two more years, does that mean we can paint a wall red?"  You better believe it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A "classic" is something everybody talks about but nobody reads

Having just finished a delightful piece of fluff in "Cousin Kate" (all of Georgette Heyer's books are fluff, but very delightful fluff) I've decided to read "Vanity Fair."  All 864 pages of it.  I find I've been re-reading a lot of my favorites, and not touching the books that I bought but haven't read.  So I'm alternating.  I can re-read something, but then I have to read a book I own that I've yet to crack.

There are all these "classic" books that I've never read.  Vanity Fair, War and Peace, most Dickens novels (I think I'm up to three of his; I do wish the first half of "A Tale of Two Cities" wasn't so dull so I could read it again.), Lolita, anything by James Joyce, anything by Faulkner, Atlas Shrugged, Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, Gone with the Wind...so many books that we all talk about and that, as a English-majoring book lover, people expect me to have read.  Yeah, well, there are a lot of books, and only so much time to read them in.

Besides, there are lots that I've read that I don't really care for.  Anything by Toni Morrison, what little Faulkner and Joyce I've read--I just don't feel like I should have to have a what-beats-what card to figure out a novel's stream of consciousness--the da Vinci Code, Midwives (thanks for nothing, Oprah), etc.

Often,I feel they're overrated, for any number of reasons.  "Anna Karenina," for instance was dreadfully dull.  It didn't help that I had the ending ruined for me (by a musical, no less) when I still had about 900 pages to go.  "I thought everyone knew the end of Anna Karenina," my friend exclaimed when I told him during intermission what had happened. No, not everyone, it turns out.  I did slog through it, but it was terrible.  Perhaps my edition didn't help.  Bad translations make for a long 1100 pages.

"Madame Bovary" I also did not care for.  I don't like "adultery for adultery's sake" novels, may the French and Russians please take note.  I don't care for adultery in general--shocking, I know--but when that's the entire plot...bleck.  I didn't even finish that one.

"The House of Sand and Fog" is a contemporary one I've heard talked about quite a bit, though I had no idea what it was about until I started it.  I didn't finish it either.  Too depressing and...what's the word?..."earthy."  If I want my entertainment to comprise of sex and swearing, I'll get Cinemax.  Didn't finish that one either.  There are good books I could be reading, I'm not going to waste my time with bad ones.

There are lots more.  Maybe it's because I've heard so much about them that they get talked up too much.  Or maybe they're just not as good as people make them out to be.  Maybe I have unusual taste.  At any rate, I've given up wasting my time with bad books.  If it's no good halfway through, finishing it isn't going to make it better.

I'm always on the look out for new things to read.  I really want to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books.  I only have the first two Artemis Fowl books.  (I'm a big fan of children's lit.)  Everyone swears the Lord of the Rings is much better than the Hobbit, so maybe I'll give them a try.  I'd like to collect some Boxcar Children books.  Oh, and some Trixie Belden, if I can find them.

What else should I add to my reading list? Anything to avoid?